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Dissecting American Policy towards Sri Lanka

Chandre Dharmawardana

The Chapa Interview with US-military Professor Dr. Mendis:  US policy in Sri Lanka

Please listen to an interview of Dr. Mendis (( which touches on US policy and Sri Lanka, and [dwell critically on the unsaid] between the words.  See how a  Sri Lankan young man straight out of a Polonnaruwa school system gets educated in the US via a scholarship to becomes a complete supporter of the “American Manifest Destiny” that he teaches to US soldiers.  US policies to lead the world  has only helped to enrich the elite classes of the US and impoverish the rest. But Dr. Mendis  is very comfortable with US policy. It is unlikely that Dr. Noam Chomsky’s writings are part of his syllabus.


Dr. Mendis studied at Minnesota and  joined the US Army  teaching service which provides education for  US forces living in US bases all over the world. Most countries including the US exploit their poor kids for fighting, while the rich kids  escape to “better”, safer  jobs, or join the army as officers. So,  the ordinary soldiers need education to learn how to use complicated weapons, and also to do a civilian job when they get back to normal life when they are discharged or get injured (a very common eventuality). So Professors like Dr.  Mendis travel  among NATO bases  teaching soldiers US geography, economics, history, and justifying US foreign policy. In Canada too there is  the Royal Military College (e.g., in Kingston) and its professors teach Canadian soldiers – but unlike Canada, US has  bases  in over a 100 countries.

It is painful to see Dr. Mendis’s failure to note how US dominates other countries, using its  military presence to weaken regimes, and deploying its  capitalist globalization program to allow its Big Business to dominate the economies of poor countries. Nigeria,  the most populous country in Africa  has the U.S. West African contingent  stationed at a $110 million air base in Agadez, Niger.  The under-educated Muslim leaders of the North are buttressed by the US forces, and they together exploit the south (with its educated people) to extract oil to sell via US companies. Does even 10% of the income go to Nigerian people?  Nigeria is a very poor country with a sick and traumatized population. The country is eternally in turmoil and on the brink of war between the North and the South with government death squads eliminating dissent. The UN-Human Rights Commission in Geneva,  the Human Rights NGOs, the Right-to-Protect agents of the “human-rights” lobbies etc., see no evil.

Oil is the main reason why the US and its Businesses are in Nigeria.  This is why I have opposed Sri Lanka’s attempt to explore for oil and  gas in the Mannar sea. If the GOSL finds oil there, big powerful  oil companies backed by the West will use extremely  dangerous methods to takeover such resources. If they have the SOFA and the MCC, they will do the oil drilling!  They will justify it saying that such resources must not fall into the hands of China. If you are weak and find a big treasure, you get robbed.

Dr. Mendis talks of the Jeffersonian policy of Freedom, democracy etc., laid down by the founding fathers and applied to the white population of the US, and the Hamiltonian policy  of economic domination laid down by Treasury Secretary Hamilton during George Washington’s time.

Hamilton was the father of American capitalism, which arguably produced one of the highest standards of living in the world for the white population.  According to Historian  Knott “His policies at the Treasury Department were designed to enhance the development of manufacturing. His economic policies such as a national bank, tariffs to protect American manufacturing, … contributed to the overall rise of the United States as an economic superpower.” In consequence, Hamilton insisted in having an eventual dominating US military presence all over the world.

But US ideas of democracy and liberty are applied essentially to the Whites and to European nations.  The US Blacks, Natives and other nations were considered subjects to be held in check for  economic exploitation as dictated by Hamiltonian policies.

Dr. Mendis does not see all that. He  ignores how the US in the South American continent  supported corrupt dictators to exploit the resources of those countries by US companies mining, taking over land and making them into US plantations.  A few Latin American countries followed the lead of Cuba and drove out the US, but  most others are still struggling. Haiti is a very good example. The equivalents of the 1983 Black July that the Colombo Tamils suffered once  has happened to US Blacks and Native peoples regularly, every decade or so.

In South Asia and in the Pacific, the Vietnamese were most successful in driving out the US by waging  war. Vietnamese successfully  kept  China out of their country,  developed its own “patriotic” form of socialism. Vietnam avoided any anti-Americanism and  is using US technology to its own advantage in in even collaborating with highly aggressive companies like Monsanto.

Dr. Mendis does not see any problem with SOFA, MCC and other instruments of domination used by the US. This is not unusual. The neo-liberal politicians like Mangala Samaraweera, Ranil Wickremasinghe, and some in the  Pathfinder organization etc., also believe that  participating in US conglomerates is the way to prosperity. As  Dr. Mendis explains, SOFA, MCC etc  already apply to  countries now in the US orbit. As part and parcel of the US military machine, perhaps Dr. Mendis thinks like a US soldier, and that what is good for US forces is good for the world and for God.

SOFA and other mechanisms make the signatory countries become almost like a member of NATO, without the advantages of NATO membership that the  Western NATO countries enjoy. It is logical and valid for a country like Canada or Italy to be in NATO, but not for Sri Lanka or Ecuador. The MCC is a sugar pill to make SOFA and other military takeover agreements palatable to the rulers who agree to comply, or are made to comply under military pressure. Someone like Pompeo is mandated to do just that. The MCC will make it easier for US Capital to penetrate and dominate the Sri Lankan business and agrarian sectors.  Dr. Mendis kept on insisting that SOFA has been signed in 2017 but does he know that it was done in quasi-secrecy by the Yahapalanaya administration? or may be he felt that the end justifies the means of achieving Hamiltonian objectives.

Unfortunately, Dr Mendis did not look at how this US action, directed to checkmate Chinese action has only benefited a small elite t of each of these societies that joined in with the US. These elites who control the business sector of those countries become part of US capitalism, while leaving the ordinary people even more poor. US capitalism is good for those who are well to do, but not for the vast majority of people, even in the US.  The business machine  doesn’t and cannot stop to care about the poor, as seen in how Brandix preferred to push the workers to meet export targets even when the workers were in danger of Covid.  One finds that directors of Brandix are also directors of Air Lanka, and perhaps they have the capacity to bend even health rules about who they can fly in and fly out!  The Chapa interview did not bring out any of this because the Interviewer, although clearly uncomfortable with Dr. Mendis’s views, was very hesitant to ask tough questions from an old friend!

Sri Lanka has had a history of being an independent nation right at the center of the maritime silk road since the time of the Greeks. Its history, and its contribution to the world can continue even within the “Manifest Destinies” claimed by big nations.  Dr. Mendis and others fail to see this. This is not a matter of politics, but of biology and bio-diversity. Just as bio-diversity is good for reasons that I cannot go into here, an ecology of diverse nations with independent views is good for humanity.

So, I  re-iterate that Sri Lanka should take a closer look at Vietnam — a country that defeated the US in war, and has in spite of it come back as a friendly with the US while being independent of it while also being strongly independent of China.

Chandre Dharmawardana.

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Turbulent Waters around Pompeo’s Visit


·* it would be good if someone not so high in the government dealt with him, rather than the top leadership

·* That technique i described above is called  “The Shanghai Treatment” and is well known in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. 

  • If Pompeo is forcing “you are either with us, or against us,” on SL, the Sri Lankan govt should respond that as a predominantly Buddhist country, it always chooses the middle path.

·*  And that it would offend Buddhism if Pompeo disrespected this dictum 

  • As the US is in an election, there is a good chance Pompeo will no longer by Sec of State in 3 weeks, and it would be reasonable for SL to wait for the election result and a possible change of leadership, by which time Pompeo’s crusade may no longer exist.  He seems desperate to get an agreement with SL before the elections 
    • **************************
    • US Secretary of State Pompeo’s visit is more of a farewell – The Jakarta Post

As a Javanese man who was raised in the Central Java city of Surakarta, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo will pretend he does not know that the United States election is only a few days ahead when he hosts US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, scheduled for Wednesday. Less than week after his arrival in Jakarta Pompeo may turn into a lame duck foreign minister along with his boss President Donald Trump. But Jokowi will not underestimate Trump’s chances of reelection. Neither will he squander the opportunity of Indonesia-US defense cooperation that his Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto has gained from his recent trip to Washington.  Indonesia, as well as all of ASEAN, needs a strong US military presence in the region, amid escalating tension in the region now that China has become more assertive in its claim over a large swath of the South China Sea. Indonesia, however, never wants to form any security alliance despite regional rivalries. Now the guest from Washington, DC is seemingly engaged in an impossible mission: To persuade, or more precisely, to pressure Indonesia to work closely with the US in cornering and isolating China, which is Indonesia’s most important trading partner. The mission comes as Washington’s global power and influence is diminishing in part because Trump has slashed many fiscal and economic incentives, while unilaterally punishing its allies and strategic partners. Last February, for example, Washington officially removed Indonesia, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam—from the list of developing and least-developed countries. This meant Indonesia would no longer receive special differential treatment (SDT) available in the WTO Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures. The policy has definitely affected Indonesia’s exports to the US. I can guess that Jokowi will be half-hearted in responding to any message from President Trump, especially after latest polling showed Trump’s likely defeat to Democratic Party candidate Joe Biden. If the polling is accurate, then Pompeo’s visit is technically a matter of courtesy. This does not mean that Jokowi prefers Biden as the winner, however, because traditionally the Democratic Party tends to make a fuss about labor, human rights and fair-trade issues. The Republicans usually do not pay too much attention to those matters but focus on profits and advantages. Trump is so obsessed with his trade war against China and he is so confident that only very few countries dare to refuse his call to join forces against China that he has decided to send his top Cabinet member several days before the Nov. 3 decision day. On his visit to the region Pompeo said last week: “I’m sure that my meetings will also include discussions on how free nations can work together to thwart threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party,” as quoted by the Washington Post. It seems to me that Trump is confident he will beat Biden and the Republicans will dominate the Senate and Congress. Therefore, he has ordered Pompeo to tour four countries in the Indian Ocean region to tell them to stand behind him in the face of China. In a show of hatred against China, Trump accused Beijing of being the party responsible for the spread of COVID-19, which has hit the US hardest. Pompeo’s mission is simply telling his hosts to join Trump in the fight against China. As a sweetener, Pompeo is accompanied by top executives of the US International Development Finance Corporation on his visit to India, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Indonesia. The federal finance institution is in charge of providing and facilitating the financing of private development projects in lower- and middle-income countries. If Trump loses, all the agreements and commitments reached during Pompeo’s visit to Jakarta could mean nothing. If he wins, Biden will be preoccupied with the messy domestic situation, especially the devastating impact of the pandemic on the country’s economy. Let us say Trump wins. Pompeo may not hold his current position and more importantly, knowing his impulsive leadership, Trump may forget or just ignore his own promises. On the other side, China will punish whoever accepts the role of US cheerleaders. In bilateral talks during his visit to Jakarta, Pompeo will be accompanied by new US Ambassador to Indonesia Sung Kim. And on Oct. 29, when Muslims across the world celebrate the birthday of Prophet Muhammad, Pompeo will attend a dialogue on religion and civilization that will be organized by GP Ansor, the youth wing of Indonesia’s largest Islamic organization, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU). The world recognizes NU and Muhammadiyah as the champions of moderate, peaceful, tolerant and inclusive Islam. Welcome to Jakarta Secretary of State Pompeo. Your attendance in the dialogue with GP Ansor will enrich your understanding about Islam in Indonesia. Please don’t take it personally, when I consider your effort to involve Indonesia in your country’s confrontation with China to be impossible mission. This is not because we are afraid of China, but because Indonesia needs both the US and China and Indonesia will forever keep its free and active foreign policy intact. Just in case President Trump loses, or wins but appoints a new secretary of state, please accept our sincere appreciation for your visit. Goodbye. ———- Senior editor at The Jakarta Post

China tells US not to bully Sri Lanka ahead of Pompeo’s visit – CNA

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Mike Pompeo laid Bare

George Koo & K J Noh in ASIA TIMES, 19 October 2020 …

Mike Pompeo, otherwise known as the international man of catastrophe, by wide acclaim, has earned a label as the worst secretary of state in the history of the United States, while appropriately enough serving under its worst president.


That president, Donald Trump, has torn the US constitution to shreds, and he has an absolutely corrupt chief law-enforcement officer, Attorney General Bill Barr, to provide him a temporary Get out of Jail Free card. Until and unless regime change takes place after the November election, Pompeo is safe under the same protective custody.

As the US top diplomat, Pompeo’s mission is to persuade nations to take positions aligned with the US and in opposition to China. If a nation fails to be persuaded, especially when it’s against that nation’s self-interest, Pompeo’s technique is to compel it to comply with the threat of sanctions.

Levying sanctions hasn’t been limited to the usual wide-angle shotgun blasts at Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Venezuela, but the US has also targeted the chief prosecutor and other officials of the International Criminal Court for investigating Pompeo for possible war crimes while he was head of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Just as his boss, Trump, sees himself as above the laws of the United States, Pompeo, who sees the United Nations, World Health Organization and other international bodies as subordinates to the US, certainly would not allow the possibility of being subject to international laws. The sanction is his way of saying we’re not going to allow you to travel freely to continue your investigation and we’re not going to take you seriously.

He lied, cheated and stole

In a moment of braggadocio and indiscretion – and poor judgment – he chortled before a group of students and boasted how as head of the CIA, he lied, cheated and stole. All in the CIA training manual, he said. The students were not amused. Neither was the public. Since becoming the head of the State Department, his actions confirm that his modus operandi has not changed.

Pompeo has remained true to his character in his campaign against China. With no sense of irony, a typical preamble to his speeches on China goes: “Communists always lie, but the biggest lie is that the Chinese Communist Party speaks for 1.4 billion people who are surveilled, oppressed, and scared to speak out.” 

He failed to note that annually, 170 million of these deceived Chinese people travel as tourists abroad, and then choose voluntarily to return to this “open-air prison” of surveillance, oppression and terror.

It probably did not occur to him that this allegation may be more projection than anything resembling truth, given the fact that the US has the largest prison population of any country – five times as great on a per capita basis as China’s – and the surveillance and harassment of whistleblowers and dissidents is routine.

On October 6, Pompeo lashed out against China and exhorted the Quad – the US-Japan-Australia-India military-strategic formation that the US is trying to consolidate against China – to stand against China and its evil, corrupt actions:  “I also look forward to … renewing our resolve to protect our precious freedoms and the sovereignty of the diverse nations of the region.

“As partners … it is more critical now than ever that we collaborate to protect our people and partners from the CCP’s exploitation, corruption, and coercion.”

The silence from the Quad members was deafening – no agreement or statement was issued after their ministerial meeting in Tokyo. The Japanese government, in particular, in a mind-bending act of diplomatic insouciance, insisted flat out, “This Quad meeting is not being held with any particular country in mind.”

Sorry, His Holiness is not in

On September 30, the Vatican rebuffed a request from Mike Pompeo for an audience with Pope Francis, and accused the secretary of state of trying to drag the Catholic Church into the US presidential election by denouncing its relations with China.

On September 9, in a speech to member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations encouraging them to gang up against China, he stated, “Don’t let the Chinese Communist Party walk over us and our people. You should have confidence and the American will be here in friendship to help you.”

The good secretary seemed to have forgotten that if anyone has posed a historical threat to Southeast Asian countries, it is the United States. Unsurprisingly, there were no takers. 

On July 23, at the Nixon Library, Secretary Pompeo in a warmed-over version of Ronald Reagan’s “Evil Empire” speech declared the end of US-China détente, and announced a new cold war: “Washington is seeking to change Beijing’s behavior, [against] a generational threat, a totalitarian and hegemonic regime.… Free nations … can successfully force a change of China.” 

To make this argument, Pompeo listed a litany of imagined, projected, and concocted wrongs committed by the Chinese: spreading Covid-19, stealing jobs and intellectual property, trade abuses, violations of international law, and of course, the catchall, being “Marxist-Leninist.”

After all this hyperventilating about China’s menace “to our economy and way of life,” he called for all nations to come together to fight China, to “triumph over this new tyranny.” 

“We, the freedom-loving nations of the world, must induce China to change … because Beijing’s actions threaten our people and our prosperity…. It’s time for a new grouping of like-minded nations, a new alliance of democracies.” 

Pompeo acted as if he was the visionary to lead the 1.4 billion Chinese out of the wilderness and overthrow the Beijing regime.

Lies about China can be very profitable

To make his case for demonizing China, Pompeo will use any source of questionable legitimacy. One example was a paper written by Li-Meng Yan, a virologist and at the time of publication a postdoctoral student at Hong Kong University. Her paper claimed that the Covid-19 virus was created in a Wuhan lab.

Her finding was sensational as it seemed to authenticate Trump’s and Pompeo’s accusation that China should be held accountable for the pandemic. The popular media went wild with the story, even though those in scientific circles criticized the non-peer-reviewed paper as weak on science.

Rapid Reviews: COVID-19, a collaboration between the University of California at Berkeley and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, quickly solicited reviews of the Yan paper by four renowned scientists in the field and their conclusion was:“This manuscript does not demonstrate sufficient scientific evidence to support its claims. Claims are at times baseless and are not supported by the data and methods used. Decision-makers should consider the author’s claims in this study misleading.”

Those reviews followed the publication of the Yan paper by about two weeks. It’s a safe bet that the refutation is unlikely to attract the attention of the mainstream media. An added side note in the comment section was the observation that the co-authors listed in Yan’s paper did not exist but were fictitious – in other words, a blatant lie.

So what could have motivated Yan? By now, it has become quite clear that providing material for China-bashing can be very lucrative business. Gordon Chang showed that he could publish a book on China that totally missed the mark – instead of economic collapse, China is about to become the largest economy in the world – and instead of striking out, he became an anti-China media star for the last 20 years.

Peter Navarro did even better. He wrote a book and a documentary titled Death by China, a complete work of fiction, with imaginary “expert” “Ron Varra,” who turned out to be the anagrammatic alter ego of Navarro himself. This China-bashing turned him from being a failed politician and outcast academic into the holder of a seat in the inner circle at the Trump White House.

The latest to follow this career trajectory is Adrian Zenz. In just two years, out of nowhere, he became known as an expert on Uighurs in Xinjiang by claiming that between a million and 1.8 million Uighurs were being held in concentration camps. 

No one really questioned the accuracy of the report nor the veracity of this so-called expert, a millenarian Christian theologian who claims that Jews will be exterminated in the Rapture, that women should not pursue careers outside the home, that children should be physically abused “according to scripture,” and that homosexuality is the work of the Antichrist. 

With those impeccable credentials, Zenz was instantly embraced by the media, the Trump administration and the US Congress.

Zenz visited Xinjiang 13 years ago, but it is not likely that he was drawing any substance from that visit. One million people is a lot to be held and would be difficult to hide: The US has more than 6,000 such facilities to house its inmate population. 

Satellite photos offered as evidence of such camps turned out to be schools and office buildings. These compounds all have fences and walls on their perimeter. Apparently, that is all it takes to qualify as evidence for prison camps.          

Foreign visitors to Xinjiang of more recent vintage have found no evidence of large numbers of locals incarcerated. If the numbers claimed by Zenz are correct, it would imply that a very large percentage of working Uighur adults are incarcerated. However, life on the streets and markets appears relaxed and normal.

Indeed, most people living in Xinjiang, of any ethnicity, seem to be beneficiaries of China’s campaign to lift everyone out of poverty.             

About 9% of China’s population belong to an ethnic minority, of which 55 are recognized. Where any given ethnic group dominates a geographical region, an autonomous government is established to allow some degree of local governance. 

Ethnic minorities are encouraged to preserve their own culture and attend bilingual schools where Mandarin is taught alongside their own native tongue. During the draconian era of one child per family throughout China, ethnic minorities were permitted to have two or three children.

Remote, hard-to-reach areas of China were understandably the last to feel the benefits of Beijing’s poverty-alleviation program, regardless of the ethnicity of the people living there. Local governments’ mandate is to strive to improve the welfare of the people under their care.

But all lives matter in China

In China, voting occurs at the local level for representatives to the local people’s congresses. Members of the local congress then elect from within that body those who will become members of the provincial congress, who then elect those to represent their province at the National People’s Congress. Thus each tier of representation becomes more selective, rigorous, and professional.  

While this differs from the direct suffrage practiced in the West, it promotes competence and dedication, and a government where all lives truly matter, and none are kept in ghettoes by design.

Poverty alleviation follows a general pattern. The local governments with the support of the central government build roads to connect the remote village to the economically upscale towns and cities to facilitate the sale of their produce and local goods. This policy accords with studies that show the single most important factor in alleviating and escaping the cycle of poverty is good transportation access.  

Where transportation infrastructure was too difficult to build, the local government would provide the option of heavily subsidized housing with electricity and water to encourage poor villagers living in remote places to relocate to nearby urban centers with easier access to schools and health care. Vocational training along with relocation provides the farmers with new skills and chance to raise their income. One example was presented here

Technical experts would visit the poor village and appraise the potential to raise incomes and provide guidance. Sometimes the recommendation is to switch to higher-valued crops, other times just introduce ways to improve yield. 

With the popularity of streaming over the Internet to promote sales and with greatly improved roads and rail, and rapid payment and delivery systems, it is now possible to sell exotic fruits, local goods, and medicinal herbs available in one remote region to consumers all over China. 

Attractive handicrafts unique to a particular ethnic group can be introduced and popularized via streaming. As a consequence of being a huge and fast-growing economy, China has a burgeoning middle class. Relatively new to consumption, the appetite of the middle-class Chinese for goods is a huge market not remotely near saturation.

By dedicated and determined efforts, Beijing can proudly proclaim that hundreds of millions have been lifted out of subsistence living. Yet the West with its comfortable standard of living continues to accuse China of human-rights abuses. 

Third World countries make no such accusations, just express admiration for China and hope that China will help them to attain higher standards of living through its experience and expertise and via the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Pompeo has been busy telling African countries that China’s BRI is nothing more than a debt trap. Of course, drawing from his own personal background, it’s easy for him to project what he would do and imagine that China is pulling off a con.

By and large, African nations welcome the opportunity to collaborate with China and take advantage of its infrastructure expertise and willing investment. These nations react to Pompeo with disdain and affront. Privately, they say to themselves, “Do you think we’re so dumb and easily swindled, or what?”

A port and airport project in Sri Lanka has been frequently cited by Pompeo and others as the “see, I told you so” example. The truth of the matter was that the Sri Lankan government was too ambitious and overestimated the expected revenue stream to be derived upon completion of the port and airport. 

When Sri Lanka could not meet the repayment schedule, China took over the management of the port and airport. In experienced hands, the Chinese operator has raised efficiency and increased utilization so that profitability is now within reach. Once revenue is sufficient to service the loan, the projects will revert to Sri Lanka.

Just this month, Pompeo went to Croatia to tell the country to stay away from China’s BRI. In a press conference in front of the Dubrovnik harbor, Pompeo and Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković stood side by side, and Plenković was asked by the media his thoughts about the BRI.

The reporter prefaced her question by saying that Pompeo had denounced the BRI as a predatory scheme to buy a Chinese empire. In response, Plenković said China was very smart to use the BRI to build its relationship with Central and Eastern European countries.

He said he had met with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang five of six times since coming into office, is fully aware of all aspects of China’s deal, and believes Beijing will be fair and behave in accordance with international norms.

Plenković looked over at Pompeo as he praised Croatia’s relationship with China. Apparently, he did not feel the need to be diplomatic before the emissary from the US.

This is the first article in a two-part report. Part 2 will look at what to expect from US diplomacy under a Joe Biden presidency.

George Koo is a retired international business adviser and frequent contributor to Asia Times. K J Noh is a journalist, political analyst, writer, and teacher specializing in the geopolitics of the Asia-Pacific region.

Asia Times Financial is now live. Linking accurate news, insightful analysis and local knowledge with the ATF China Bond 50 Index, the world’s first benchmark cross sector Chinese Bond Indices. Read ATF now. TAGGED:Mike PompeoOpinionUS-China


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The Ceylon Civil Service at Cricket 1910

Michael Roberts

The photograph above of the twenty-two men who participated in the cricket match in 1910 between George Vanderspar’s XI and eleven British civil servants in Ceylon has been taken from SP Foenander’s wonderful book Sixty Years of Ceylon Cricket published in Colombo in 1924. Its import ranges beyond the cricket field.



The British Empire was at its zenith in the 1890s and the first decades of the 20th century. Queen Victoria’s Jubilee celebrations in 1997 and 1902 had seen massive displays of pomp and pageantry. This degree of power promoted the persistence of racism where some White administrators, businessmen and settlers treated their colonial subjects as inferior beings. In British Ceylon this racist principle was displayed in institutional rules which debarred coloured people (other than menial servants) from entry into clubs and hotels that were set up as White preserves for e.g. the Grand Hotel in Nuwara Eliya, the Colombo Club,[1] and the Colombo Cricket Cub.[2] Some British men of substance even treated the first-class cabins in railway carriages as their exclusive domain; while some planters and other White settlers riding horses did not permit rail gates to bar their ‘majestic’ progress.[3]

On occasions, Ceylonese middle class men with brawn responded to individual slights at face-to-face level by “thrashing’ the offending Whites: both John Kotelawela Snr and Danister Perera Abeywardena received fame for such reactions.[4] When the Orient Club was initiated in 1894 by well-to-do Ceylonese its founding fathers made sure that “Whites” were excluded.[5] As an institution heavy with lawyers and personnel active in politics,[6] this move underlined the emerging battlelines. At the same time, there were more substantial movements of political opposition from the late 19th century in the various strands of Buddhist revival and in the vilification of Westernized lifeways by Sinhala writers such as Piyadasa Sirisena and dramatists as John De Silva.[7]

Muted political questioning in the English-media was witnessed when the Ceylon National Association (CNA) was formed in 1888; while the Chilaw Association formed in 1897 mounted a campaign against the British waste lands legislation. Then, in the 1900s the English-speaking middle classes began to press for reform via the Ceylon Social Reform Society and a re-activated CNA.[8] Empire-loyalism and Queen Victoria’s longevity notwithstanding, the loins of political challenge were being greased within English-speaking circles.

No less a person than the Colonial Secretary, Sir Alexander Ashmore, added grist to this grease. At the annual prizegiving at Trinity College in late 1906, he told an august gathering that the Government did not employ Ceylonese in the higher posts in the public service because “they were deficient in those qualities of duty and honour that the British government had a right to expect.” The uproar was immediate and vociferous. A public meeting assembled at the Town Hall in Colombo to castigate this imperial satrap (who imperialistically dismissed the action as a move by those exploiting “an opportunity for self-advertisement”).[9] Ashmore. alas, did not play cricket …. or, rather, he is not among of the 22 men who are assembled in our lead photograph because he had left the island for higher offices.[10]

Cricket: Its Politics and Its Greats, 1880-1924

With the British imperial enterprise at its peak and ever-expanding, the latter half of the nineteenth century was not conducive to political agitation against British rule in most parts of the empire. Such action would have been deemed “sedition.” The Ceylonese middle classes and bourgeoisie of political disposition were therefore cautious and slow in mounting vociferous challenges. 

However, the sports realm enabled elliptical challenges. Cricket matches and athletic races at gymkhanas enabled Ceylonese to take on the Whites in sporting excellence. Thus, in 1882 the “Ceylonese” gave battle to the “Europeans” of the Colombo Cricket Club on the latter’s home grounds on Galle Face Green in what was termed a “Test Match”. Yes, a “Test Match.” They lost. White supremacy remained intact. But then in 1887 another Ceylonese team faced the CCC over two Saturdays and won. Halleluyyiah! Hoyiyaah!

But mark the composition of this team: in batting order it was E. Weinman, J. Weinman, J. Kelaart, W. Henricus, C. Orr, R. Thomasz, D. Wendt, E. Henricus, E. Christoffelsz. C. Thomasz, G. Welsh.[11] It was a Burgher team …. on solid grounds insofar as the Colts Cricket Club, then located in the Burgher stronghold known as the Pettah,[12] was the leading indigenous club.

The preponderance of Burgher middle class men in the Ceylonese sides of the time (leavened somewhat by Malay cricketers from the regiments) was an indication of the urban concentration of cricket as a pastime then. Colombo was the epicentre. Cricket in the metropolis received a further stimulus when the ‘millionaire’ businessman, George Vanderspar, moved his enterprise from Galle to Colombo when the artificial harbour was completed in the 1880s.[13] A zealous promoter of cricket, Vanderspar[14] took over the CCC grounds at Galle Face when the latter moved to Cinnamon Gardens in 1894 and initiated the Colombo Sports Club. He had the clout to draw a wide range of personnel, from mercantile men to civil servants and officers in the military regiments which resided nearby, into his teams. In 1908 he was even able to persuade the Amateurs in the England side that had just toured Australia to take on an eleven assembled by him at the Galle Face grounds.[15]

This, then, was the temporal background that preceded the match ‘outlined’ in our lead photograph. Vanderspar is, of course, present: seated second from right in a striped blazer. There are no Ceylonese – as the term would have been understood then — in the two teams.[16] Because civil servants (e.g. Denham) were also members of the Colombo Sports Club, it is not wholly clear which of these personnel played in the CCS Eleven in this particular encounter.

Be that as it may, several names stand out as important for historical reasons and they can be listed here in arbitrary order.

TW Roberts looms prominently – in part because he is the only coloured man in the lot and largely because he is my father …. a British civil servant of Barbadian extraction who became a Ceylonese after his retirement in 1935 and when he planted his roots in Galle.[17] 

EB Denham …. Edward Brandis Denham (1876-1938) also stands out because he supervised the Ceylon Census of 1911, an outstanding and even remarkable compilation that has been of immense value to researchers. His administrative capacities were recognised and he rose to high office in the British colonial dispensation, receiving a knighthood and even dying, so to speak, in the saddle in Jamaica.[18]

RN Thaine and HA Burden are names that ring my bell as CCS men whose reports on the 1915 riots I have read at some point of time.

EB Alexander was yet another public-school product who went on to win a soccer blue at Oxford and played cricket there as well. He has been described by Foenander as “one of the finest European batsmen Ceylon has ever had.[19] Alexander resigned from the CCS to fight in the First World War – surviving that experience as a Major and then returning to his job in Ceylon – where he rose to be Controller of Revenue in 1922 and then acted as Colonial Secretary from 1925-27.

Significantly, Alexander retained his interest in cricket and was even elected to the post of President of the Ceylon Cricket Association in 1923. Despite his outstanding career this was rather a surprise because his name was proposed to counter to that of Dr John Rockwood, a Sri Lankan Tamil who had rendered yeoman service for the island’s cricket for many years. Rockwood’s name for the Presidency had been proposed by MC Raju of the Tamil Union and seconded by AAC Ahamath of the Malay CC, when “to everyone’s surprise Dr VR Schokman (BRC) proposed and AE Keuneman (NCC) seconded E. B. Alexander (Colombo CC) for President.”[20] Whereupon Rockwood surprised everyone by withdrawing his name.

Clearly, there is more to this event than these words convey. The Ceylon National Congress had taken shape by 1919 and the Lanka Mahajana Sabha and Labour Party (under AE Goonesinha) were active in Colombo and/or the south western regions. However proficient as `a cricketer and however high his rank, Alexander was a pukka sahib. For two Burgher gentlemen to move against the emergent process of Ceylonese pitted against the British dispensation raises the possibility of ethnic reservations – though it is possible that local club rivalries served as the chief motivation for this incident. No living person can provide ethnographic rumours to settle the issue. We require assiduous historians of the SS Perera variety to pursue ways and means of answering this puzzle.

So, there is no better way to end this excursion around and beyond an intriguing photograph than by doffing our cricketing caps to three gentlemen who have serviced the history of Sri Lankan Cricket in imposing and everlasting manner. Hip Hip Hurray to SP Foenander, Chandra Perera and Chandra Schaffter (the man behind Janashakthi and a Ceylon hockey and cricket international in his younger days who has also served Sri Lanka as an astute Manager of our cricketing teams[21] in the 1990s and 2000s). SS Perera and his magnum opus Schaffter SP Foenander meeting Bradman on board ship


[Ashmore]1906 Sir Alexander Ashmore’s Disparagement of Ceylonese. Monster Public Meeting at the Public Hall, Ceylon on Friday November 23, 1906, Colombo Independent Press.

Amunugama, Sarath 1979 “ideology and class Interest in One of Piyadasa ssirsena’s novels. The New Image of the ‘Sinhala Buddhist’ novelist,” in M. Roberts (ed.) Collective Identities, Nationalisms and Protest in Modern Sri Lanka, Colombo, Marga 1979, pp. 314-60

Dharmasena, K. 1980 The Port of Colombo, 1860-1939, Colombo, Lake House Printers for the Ministry of Higher education.

Roberts, Michael 1979 “Stimulants and Ingredients in the Awakening of Latter-day Nationalisms,” in Roberts (ed.) Collective Identities, Nationalisms and Protest in Modern Sri Lanka, Colombo, Marga 1979, pp. 214-42.

Roberts, Michael 1989 “The Two faces of the Port City: Colombo in Modern Times,” in Frank Broeze (ed.) Brides of the Sea. Port Cities of Asia from the 16th to the 20th Centuries, Sydney, Allen and Unwin, pp. 173-87.

Roberts, Michael 2020 “Four Bajans in Ceylon,” 25 October 2020,

Roberts, Michael 2020 “Four Bajans in British Ceylon,” 24 October 2020, ……………………….

Roberts, M. Percy Colin-Thome & Ismeth Raheem 1979 People Inbetween, Colombo, Sarvodaya Book Publications.

Roberts, Norah 2005 Galle As Quiet as Asleep, Colombo, Vijitha Yapa Publications.

Thuppahi 2017 “Cricketing Amity, September 2002: Janashakthi XI vs Jaffna District Cricket,”


[1] The Colombo Club was an exclusive centre set up within Colombo for relaxation (drinking, cards, billiards and conversation) by the leading British personnel in the mercantile and governing circles of Ceylon. At this stage and for quite some time it was a White preserve.

[2] The CCC was initially located at Galle Face Green, but moved to Maitland Crescent  –whereupon George Vanderspar took over the grounds and initiated the Colombo Sports Club as a gathering that embraced the second class Europeans in the colonial order viz. the military personnel, railway officers of British stock and the “shoppies” (namely the British shop assistants at the high-class firms of Millers, Cargills and  Caves.

[3] See Roberts 1979: 221ff.

[4] Roberts 1979:  222-23.

[5] This was probably not a written rule but implemented by Committee decisions when applications were considered. Both TW Roberts (a black CCS man) and F. L. Woodward (a White Briton who was principal of Mahinda College) were admitted as members in the early 20th century.

[6] As the photograph of the gentlemen at their early location in flower road indicates, the leading lights included EJ Samerawickrame, FR Senanayake, James Peiris, Frederick Dornhorst, HJC Pereira et  cetera.

[7] See Amunugama 1979; Roberts 1979; Roberts et al 1989: 104, 116.

[8] While the actions of the Ceylon National Association and the Ceylon Social Reform Society have been referred to by historians (including myself, I suggest here that more weight should be attributed to their programmes.  Ananda Coomaraswamy was one inspiration behind the CSRS and it seems to have encouraged indigenist lines of emphasis within the English-educated bourgeoisie.

[9] See Roberts 1979: 222. The anger was so deep that the Ceylonese elite produced a pamphlet (see Ashmore)

[10] Edward Bruce Alexander (1872-1905) was British upper class from a family that saw service in British India. Educated at Forrest and Trinity College Oxford, (where he played for the Authentics and Corinthians). He served in the British Army during the war and thereafter returned to Ceylon. He was Colonial Secretary [thus second in command] from 1923-25 and acted as Governor from 18 October 1925 to 30 November 1925 before Sir Hugh Clifford arrived to take up that post (SEE

[11] For fuller details on the context, see Roberts et el 1989, p. 122.

[12] In fact, one of the main playing fields was the Racket Court lying between the Fort quarter of Colombo and the Pettah. This was the initial venue for the Colts CC matches (see Roberts et al, 1989: 93).

[13] See Dharmasena 1980 and Roberts 1989 for details on the history of Colombo as a port.

[14] Though of Dutch lineage George Augustus Vanderspar (1858-1940) was educated in England. He seems to have inherited a prospering family business located at Galle, the main port in Sri Lanka servicing the shipping lines to the East and the Antipodes. He would have been quite at home among the Burgher elite within the Fort of Galle then. Once the artificial harbour in Colombo was completed (see Dharmasena 1980), he moved to Colombo, while perhaps retaining a branch in Galle. He is an intriguing figure and one wishes for more biographical data than that available in Wikipedia.

[15] For details on this match, see Roberts, “for Bajans in Ceylon,”

[16] TW Roberts planted his roots firmly only in the 1930s and became a formal citizen in 1948. FJ Siedle is not Burgher, but of British planter lineage: born in Ceylon, but educated in England and returning to what would seem to be family property in the Veyangoda area.

[17] See my recent article “Four Bajans in Ceylon”

[18] Edward Brandis Denham was educated at Malvern and Merton College, Oxford. He advanced rapidly in the British Colonial Service and went on to become Governor of Gambia, British Guiana  and Jamaica – dying at the latter station and earning a burial at sea and a striking statue in his memory. He also was knighted at one point. …….  ……. (

[19] Foenander 1924:190.

[20] See Perera 1999: 143.

[21] I was keeping a close watch on cricket in the late 1990s and early 2000s. when visiting English friends at Taunton I was able to meet Chandra privately at a hotel in that town as the Sri Lanka team played an international match here. On another occasion we had a long and confidential chat at The Citadel in Galle. Chandra Schaffter also deployed Janashakthi’s resources to deploy cricket as an instrument of political reconciliation between the Tamil world and the rest of the island during highly stormy times when the LTTE was a looming presence (see

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Four Bajans in British Ceylon

Michael Roberts

The sea lanes of the British Empire took men (rather than women) far and wide.  Sri Lankan traders, many of them from Galle and its hinterland, traded in Mombasa, Zanzibar and even as far inland as Blantyre in the Rhodesias during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Others went as workers to Thursday Island and northern Australia.[1] Yet others traded at Singapore or joined the colonial service in Malaysia.[2] A few intrepid souls ended up in Brazil and the Caribbean. David Scott, a scholar-academic from Jamaica whose writings encompass the Sri Lankan scene, is descended from one such diasporic Lankan through his mother.

So, too, did four sons of Barbados end up in Sri Lanka as part of the British colonial order during the early twentieth century. This is a partial picture of their engagements in the field of cricket. Let me identify them first and note that there is self-interest in this story.

T.W. Roberts (1880-1976)

J.C.W. Rock (c.1886-1946)

T.F.C. Roberts (1901-1984)

Gilbert C. Roberts (1903-81)

Both “TW” (as he became known) and, a little later, Rock secured Barbados Scholarships that took them to Oxford. They then sat for the public examinations Britain that secured them a spot in the Colonial Civil Service (rather than the more prestigious Indian Civil Service) in the 1900s. Serendipitously, from my point of view that is, they chose to work in Ceylon as Sri Lanka was known then.

The Ceylon Civil Service was at the apex of the socio-political hierarchy in the island’s order. A colour bar was in force within its ranks, although never explicitly inscribed on paper. Till C. L. Wickremasinghe revealed his merits and breached this barrier circa 1923 during an era when devolution was on the horizon, those within the CCS coloured  brown or black were never given the plum jobs as Assistant Government Agents and/or senior posts in prestigious departments. This meant that in their early days they were assigned posts in such outlying towns as Batticaloa, Ratnapura or Matara where the scope to display their sporting skills (in circles that counted) were limited.  While JCW Rock turned out for the NCC at some point and also played for the Excise Department; we hear little about his performances other than a brief reference to him s  “a mighty smiter of the ball” in the same mould as TW Roberts (Perera 1899: 91). TW after scoring 247 n.o. for Kalutara Bar

But TW’s capacities and performances receive some notice in both Feonenader’s and SS Perera’s compendiums. Says Foenander: “Playing for  the Colombo Sports Club for many years he was one of the most  aggressive batsmen that Ceylon had between 1905 and 1914. His magnificent innings of 70 for Mr. Vanderspar’s XI vs the M.C.C. Amateurs, who included JN Crawford and KL Hutchings, will long be remembered in the annals of Ceylon cricket” (1924, p. 189).

Those who know their cricket history will tell you that during these decades to play for Vanderspar was akin to playing for Ceylon. And English cricket buffs will tell you that Foenander’s account of this particular game conveys shades of Aravinda de Silva’s brilliant innings in a losing cause for Kent against Lancashire at Lords. For TW’s 70 runs were out of a total of 157 secured by Vanderspar’s men after the MCC Amateurs marshaled by AO Jones’ totaled 252 (1924, p. 84).

TW is also listed alongside FJ Siedle among the prominent six-hitters in the Ceylon cricketing scene. Foenander writes that “both were prolific hitters and very fast scorers” (1924: 72-73). His opportunity to display his talents in the leading circles came when he was based in Panadura as Police Magistrate. He hit the headlines when he scored 241 n. o. for the Kalutara lawyers against the Galle Bar in 1908 (Foenander 1924: fac. 179, 223 and Perera 1899: 98).


Tommy Roberts Gilbert Roberts

TFC Roberts (b. 1901) and GC Roberts (1903-81) were sent to their grandfather’s house in Barbados for their education. Both attended Harrison College in Bridgetown. TFC (Tommy) went to London in 1921 to train for the bar and Gilbert Roberts moved to Codrington College to read for his B. A. He left Barbados for Ceylon in 1924 and was joined there eventually by Tommy and his English wife (Dolly). Gilbert, also known as “G C,” eventually married Jean Bastiaensz of Matara in 1929. He had served as bestman a little earlier when his father, TW walked down the aisle to be wedded to a local lady, Miriam Perera, daughter of W. Henry Perera by Clarissa Bastiaensz, who thus became his second wife after his English soul-mate passed away.

TFC Roberts was an allrounder who played for the Colombo Sports Club and, when stationed in Panadura, for the Panadura Sports Club. GC Roberts played for Harrison College and family lore indicates that he represented Barbados and even played in a West Indian trial match, where he was dismissed first ball by that demon quick, Martindale. He was one of Ceylon’s hardest-hitting batsmen in his day, spanning the 1920s to 1950s. He played mostly for the Panadura Sports Club. SS Perera summarizes his cricketing capacities thus: he “never thought an innings was complete without a sixer. A genial soul, his batting was in the West Indian mould. …. One big hit  of his on the Panadura Esplanade was against the Colombo CC; it landed alongside the walls of St. John’s Church across the upper road.” (Janashakthi Book of Cricket, 1899: pp. 459-60)

He also coached the St. John’s College team at Panadura, where he was a teacher for many decades beginning in the mid-1920s. He was something of an institution in this his new “home-town” – not least for his swimming capacities and the handstands on the beach (the old version of modern aerobic exercise).

On one occasion when I was visiting Panadura as a teenager who also played cricket, he demonstrated a stroke that I have never ever seen anyone play – deliberately. One has to select a yorker for this innovation: when the ball arrives on middle-and-leg just adjust feet and bat and glide the ball with angled bat to fine-leg between one’s feet  and leg stump. In brief, a delicate ‘French -glide.’ Even the French would gawk at that one!! Knowing my limitations, I firmly relegated the idea to my locker and always kept it there. But this can be a puzzle to set before the West Indian cricketers and the big hitters of the IPL: did Weekes or Sobers play such a shot? do Maxwell or Pooran attempt such artistic innovation? Maybe these blokes scored (score) plenty and rapidly without the need for such fancy stuff?

Dhanasiri Weerasinghe[3] recalls witnessing G C playing this shot in the middle. Dhanasiri, an elegant batsman who went on to play for Sri Lanka, considers G C to have been his principal mentor in the art of batting. He also provided a vivid description of a game in 1955 between Panadura SC and the snooty English club of the day, CCC, where John Arenhold had reduced the former to 5 runs for 3 wickets but then encountered firm resistance as old G C scored 55 n. o. at one end, while he himself scored a century.


These stories indicate that the progeny of the three Bajan Robertses were  nourished as Ceylonese with TW’s rented home within the fort of Galle, where he chose to retire, serving as the mahāgedara,the “patriarchal lineage house” (literally “great house”). Therein lie many tales. But most members of the Roberts’ lineage in Sri Lanka have dabbled and dibbled at tennis, cricket and other sports. A few went on to represent Ceylon and Sri Lanka.

Sheila at tennis Beverley in group photo … Ceylon vs England, 1948

Sheila Roberts in tennis in the late 1940s and early 50s.

Beverley Roberts for the Ceylon Women’s cricket team against the English women’s team led by Molly Hide in 1948 when they played a whistle-stop match as the “Orion” paused in Colombo.

Tony Sirimanne for the Sri Lankan rugger fifteen as redoubtable scrum half and leader of men.

Jagath Fernando for the Sri Lankan Schoolboys Cricket team in 1970 before he went on represent Sri Lanka at rugger till a karate chop when playing for the CF& FC against the Police ruined both his rugger and cricketing career potentiliaties. Tony Sirimanne

Jagath Fernando

The Rock Lineage

John Rock’s son also bore the same initials “JCW”  and attended Royal College. He can be seen in the Royal cricket team captained by FC de Saram in 1931. He was multi-talented and received school colours in rugby, cricket, athletics, tennis and boxing (Perera 439). It seems that he migrated (presumably to England) at some point in the 1930s. But his sister “Jean” married another doyen of the cricketing fields in Lucien de Zoysa who was, like FC de Saram, a rollicking part of the SSC club of sportsmen, raconteurs and sturdy clubmen. While Jean and Lucien divorced, they bequeathed to the island one Michael de Zoysa: cricketer, tea trader, SSC stalwart and a cricket administrator who was forthright in his ways ….. with the SSC also benefiting from his capacities as a curator of cricket pitches. Michael’s untimely death in September 2019 was a blow that carries unfortunate reverberations for many institutions.


Arumugam, Thiru 2019: “The Devonshire reaches Queensland,” ……

Foenander, SP 1924 Sixty Years of Ceylon Cricket, Colombo, Ceylon Advertising & General Publicity Co.

Perera, SS 1899 The Janashakthi Book of Sri Lanka Cricket, 1832-1996, Colombo.

Roberts, Michael 2006 Essaying Cricket. Sri Lanka and Beyond, Colombo, Vijitha Yapa Publishers


[1] See Arumugam …

[2] The firm of BP de silva in Singapore and related firms on the east coast of Africa are among the examples of this outreach. The family had its roots in the Magalla area in Galle.

[3] Dhanasiri is a family friend and, alas, passed away recently.

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Shark! Shark! … Major Danger off Australia’s Waters

News Ttem 25 October 2020 ….

A Queensland man is undergoing emergency surgery in hospital in the state’s north after being attacked by a shark while spearfishing.Paramedics and a rescue helicopter were rushed to Britomart Reef, off Lucinda and around 140km north of Townsville, at around 12pm today after a distress beacon was set off.The patient, a 59-year-old man, had been spearfishing with a friend when the shark attacked and bit his thigh.


The friend of a man attacked by a shark in Queensland saved his life by applying a makeshift tourniquet.US Navy diver Rick Bettua was seriously hurt in the “catastrophic” shark attack on the Great Barrier Reef.Mr Bettua, 59, was mauled on the leg by a suspected bull shark while spearfishing at Britomart Reef, off Hinchinbrook Island near Lucinda, around 140km north of Townsville.

Flight critical paramedic Ruiyi Yin said while he had a pulse, Mr Bettua had to be resuscitated when they arrived.”His friend had applied a makeshift tourniquet which I think was absolutely critical in saving his life,” Ms Yin told Today.

Shark attack victim Rick Bettua
Shark attack victim Rick Bettua (Nine)
Flight critical paramedic Ruiyi Yin brought the shark attack victim to shore. (Nine)

“He had suffered a significant injury to his upper left thigh and also some significant blood loss as well.”Mr Bettua – who is a dive specialist with the US Navy and originally from Hawaii – was bitten yesterday afternoon at around 12pm.



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Demonising the Pope: Pompeo and Murdoch Press in Devilish Politics

Tony Donaldson

A propaganda piece published in The Australian on 2 October 2020. depicted the Pope as an evil monster with horns, as if the CCP is controlling him


1) China is evil 2) The Vatican have an agreement with China 3) Therefore, the Vatican and Pope is evil. This is a load of baloney 

The entire article is misleading, and sets out to demonize the Vatican and to portray Pompeo as some God-like savour. 

The headline “Pact with Communist shames the Vatican” is a pure propaganda headline. It is NOT a news headline. There is no evil pact and there is no shame.  

This is the type of technique propagandists use to advance their own interests and the last thing they are interested in is the truth and being fair and reasonable.

Pompeo demanded the Vatican renounce its so-called “pact with the Chinese Communist Party.” It is misleading because the Vatican have relations with the government of China, not the CCP.

Pompeo declares: the “[pact with China] jeopardises the church’s moral authority.” It is not for Pompeo to determine what is or is not moral. He is not God.  Strong words, very powerful in the media and is designed to manipulate Australians into thinking Pompeo is a Great Christain Crusader, the Vatican is evil unless it follows Pompeo. It is also about sabotaging the Vatican’s relationship with China, and to compel the Vatican to join with the US. 

I know Catholic priests who have worked in China for many years without problems, and those that have left the country do so with very fond memories. We don’t hear their stories. I am not convinced the way the story is represented here is factually correct.

The essay is also misleading on climate change. In fact, in a speech to the UN general assembly, President Xi announced China will drive down emissions to zero by 2060, but it would better if they could do it by 2050. On the other hand, the US government has failed to meet its obligations on climate change, refuses to cut emissions, has withdrawn from the Paris Climate Agreement for selfish reasons and in-fact will increase emissions. So the article is wrong.  

Again, we see ASPI coming in with the old tried Uiqhur Muslim internment camp propaganda which is based on shoddy research by one US scholar who is intensley anti-CCP, and pro-Taiwan. None of these people, including those at ASPI, have done any fieldwork in China to know what things are like, and would probably not be allowed to because ASPI is an anti-China political outfit.    

The kind of language and pressure Pompeo was putting on The Vatican, he has been doing the same all over the world, and I have no doubt he will put enormous pressure on the  Sri Lankan government, and if they do not yield to his demands, he will demonize them.

As with the rest of Asia, Sri Lanka should not be forced into choosing sides between China and the US. They should be free to work with both countries on their own terms. This is the way Singapore, Malaysia, and most other countries in Asia are going. If Pompeo does insist that Sri Lanka make a choice between the US and China, then the only choice for Sri Lanka is to ignore Pompeo, and to pursue its own national interests. The French President Macron is also tiring of this stupid US-China rivalry and wants Europe to build a World Order that is independent of the rivalry.  

One final point, all of those issues about Uighur Muslims, Climate Change, and all those things have no relevance whatsoever to Vatican-China relations but are dragged out time and time again to demonize China for political reasons. Much of it is propaganda. The point is it is not relevant but propaganda writers draw on such cards everytime to manipulate us 

1) China is evil

2) The Vatican have an agreement with China

3) Therefore, the Vatican and Pope is evil 

This is a load of baloney 


ADDENDUM: in the case of Sri Lanka, if the government does not follow Pompeo’s demands, the Mudroch media will drag up every piece of dirt on SL such as human rights abuses, docitorial power grabs, debt traps, using the port in the south as military bases and any other suc garbage that can be used to manipulate public thinking — the same old tricks again and again. It is not journalism.

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Gilbert Clyde Roberts: An Appreciation

Colonel PD Ramanayake

Gilbert Clyde Roberts son of the late Mr. T. W. Roberts C. C. S. and brother of Mr. T. F. C. Roberts, District Judge, was born in Barbados[1] where he had his early education. He came to Sri Lanka fresh from the University of Durham, after obtaining a degree in Western Classics. He joined the Staff of St. John’s College, Panadura when Cyril A. Jansz (senior) was the principal. In addition to being Prefect of Games at St. John’s, he taught English and Latin in the Cambridge and London Matriculation forms of the school.

Mr. Roberts took to teaching so enthusiastically that the students soon found in him an ideal teacher. In his Latin classes his interpretations of Virgil were so vivid that one felt that one accompanying Aeneas down to the neither[2] regions.

Mr. Roberts’ lessons in English were no less interesting, you felt you were about to see Macbeth when he said, “A drum, a drum Macbeth doth come.”

His students learned to like him and respect him and there was perfect discipline in his classes. When the classes had to be moved he would say “Boys, even to the gallows, ladies first”. St. John’s was then the only coeducational school in the island.

Throughout his career Mr. Roberts worked with such devotion to duty and sincerity that he never thought of his own future, but of those his pupils. He took over the cadets from Mr. Harold Jansz who had just won the Herman Loos Cup for St. John’s for the first time and within two years Gilbert Roberts had repeated this feat. He then resigned from the Cadet Platoon to attend to more onerous duties.

Mr Roberts was an excellent cricketer. He had played for Barbados with Leary Constantine who set the pace to win for West Indian cricket a glorious future. Mr. Roberts was one of the most natural batsman of the Caribbean style. His straight drive for six over the sight screen was a treat to watch. He was a tower of strength to the Panadura Sports Club. In the field of sports he was always with the boys. Cricket was his forte and in all competitions he stressed the need for team spirit.

Mr. Roberts was also a swimmer who produced quite a few champion swimmers for Panadura. He was a fine allround sportsman who did well in any sport he took to, be it cricket, football, hockey, tennis or aquatics.

His was a rare combination of an ideal teacher and allround sportsman. He imbibed in his students a sense of loyalty to the school and patriotism to the country and he emulated his words by joining as a Commissioned Officer in the Ceylon Engineers during the World War II from 1942-1943; where he had to work with some of his old pupils.

A few years after joining the Staff Mr. Roberts married Miss Jean Bastiansz[3]of Matara, to whom he was very devoted and who looked after him with great attention right to the end.

After spending over thirty years of the best part of his life in the service of St John’s, he and his wife were obliged to leave Sri Lanka to live with their children who had settled down in Australia.

Death had come, peacefully, to him, in his sleep.

Every student who had the good fortune to meet him, feels all the richer by the association, a man so honest, so upright, so guileless – a gentleman.

As George Eliot said

“Not God himself can make men’s best

Without best men to help him.”


ADDENDUM: Gilbert’s Cricketing Prowess descibed by SS Perera in his Janshakthi Book of Cricket (Colombo 1899, pp. 459-60: GC Roberts was “a wiry sixfooter who never thought an an innings was complete without a sixer. A genail soul, his batting ws in the West Indian mould. …. He came for Harrions’s College, Barbados, to the staff of St. John’s College. One big hitof his on the Panadura Esplanadewas agaisnt the Colombo CC; it landed alongside the walls of St. John’s Churc across the upper road.”

A NOTE from The Editor Thuppahi: This is the reproduction of an old news cutting which I discovered in my papers — now typed up with Footnote Corrections by his granddaughter Marcelle Weeraratne of Melbourne.

[1] Gilbert was born in England, not Barbados, but was sent to Bardados as a young boy.

[2] nether

[3] Correct Name and spelling: Jeanette Bastiaensz

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“Punchi”: A Font of Cultural Knowledge so Generous in His Aid to One-and-All

Michael Roberts

Punchibanda Meegaskumbura would not demand a Professor’s title before his name if he could see us today. He was of the Sinhala people and a man for all peoples – rooted in simplicity, but blessed with many skills. These knowledges he readily made available to all and sundry as his colleague in arms within the Sinhala literary field, KNO Dharmadasa has made clear in The Island. My own plaudits will appear below…. BUT Chandra R. de Silva has provided the world with as succinct and incisive summary of Punchi’s contribution to research and scholarship as anyone could ask for.

An Appreciation from CR de Silva, 22 October 2020

  I am fortunate to have known Punchi for over a quarter century while we were both at the University of Peradeniya. The History Department office was right next door to the Sinhala Department and we saw each other quite often. Punchibandara Meegaskumbura was a dedicated and beloved teacher. His deep knowledge of Sinhala language and literature was a treasure to all of us because of his willingness to share his expertise with us. I particularly benefitted from his comments on sixteenth and seventeenth century Sandesa Kavyas (Messenger Poems). Above all, he was kindly, generous and full of good spirits. His passing away leaves a void in our hearts. Chandra R de Silva  

Michael Roberts: Many a Tale in Appreciation of Punchi’s Expertise and Generosity in Aid

My interaction with Punchibanda Meegaskumbura in our undergrad days at Peradeniya University and when I was teaching there from 1966-75 were limited, albeit friendly. It was when I began analysing Sinhala nationalist thinking at some point in the 1990s that I sought hm out during my research visits to Sri Lanka and benefited immensely — in fact immeasurably– from his knowledge of Sinhal literature and the living culture of the Sinhala people.

As the phrase “living culture” indicates, his readings were not just bookish but embodied – that is, they were rooted in daily lifeways and living practices. As my work moved backwards beyond the British period to the pre-modern period extending from the 13th century to the early 1800s, the practices of oral communication involving such modalities as teravili and hatan kavi[1] became vital. And Punchi became one of the hands[2] vital to the expansion of my knowledge of Sinhala culture. As proof, note the index of “names” in the book eventually produced in 2004 entitled Sinhala Consciousness in the Kandyan Period 1590s to 1815.

To this day I remember one moment when I was picking his brains about these oral modalities of exchange and he indicated that during the night in his village area –I now gather from KNO’s essay that this was Ravatagoda in Kotmale — one heard a sound of drums followed by the chant of a verse from one house in the neighbourhood which was then met with another verse in response from some other household in the vicinity. These, in my speculative reading, would have been “everyday exchanges of viewpoints, perhaps even ripostes, that impinged strongly within the memory of listeners.

Thus, at one point in my study I present this statement: “ On the authority provided by Meegaskumbura and Dolapihilla,[3] it can be noted that in the long duration of Indian civilisation performances of song and poetry precede written media in conveying key messages of powerful forces,” (2004: 22). This sentence is just one illustration in support of two key assertions:

A “Speaking broadly, I assert that in the middle period 1232-1818 oral forms of communication were of greater significance among the generality of people than palm-leaf texts.” (2004: 22)

B “On the basis of twentieth century personal and teaching experience I cleave to one axiom in the study of ethnic relations …. namely, that face-to-face exchanges centred around verbal communication are of critical significance in the emergence, reproduction and/or amendment of identity, especially identities of a collective sort.” (2004: 22).

Again, further along within the same chapter in Sinhala Consciousness, I dwell on a famous poem extoling the manner in which Leuke Disava confronted the Portuguese enemy forces and draw upon the expertise of Ananda Wakkumbura, CR de Silva, Asoka de Zoysa and Meegaskumbure. De Zoysa and Meegaskumbura both underlined the importance of the last line in Sinhala poems. Thus interpreted I was led by these two scholars to the conclusion that “the poem likens Leuke’s fate to that of the Buddha in sturdy isolation confronting Mara” [his arch enemy].[4]

Those seeking further detail should visit my book. For my work in this field Punchi was a godsend. But, let me now move at a tangent and record an amusing ethnographic incident which involved Punchi and presents a reading of cultural difference that – in my appraisal – is itself a contemporary ethnographic ‘fact’ of the type that anthropologists and sociologists deploy.

An Aside: This incident occurred when I banged into Punchi at London University at some point in the 1990s. We greeted each other like long lost brothers and stood in the corner of a hallway and chatted. There was a staircase leading down into the hallway which brought people down to join streams of university personnel moving in all directions – at pace. The hustle and bustle of movement was intense, hectic. Whereupon Punchi deviated from our chat and noted in wonderment: “pudhuma lōkaya nēdha!”

What Punchi was marking here was the difference in the pace of life between personnel at Peradeniya University and those in the British world. Note my restricted compass: not a difference in the lifeways of Sri Lanka and England; but rather the difference in the university worlds that does involve ethnic contrasts.  There is pedestrian hustle and bustle in Sri Lanka’s cities yes. But is it of the same character as British cities? I cannot answer that question. But that the student population of Sri Lanka’s campuses did not (and do not?) rush to lectures or rush here and there in the same frenetic manner that we observed at that moment is an ethnographic contrast that I will stand by. A minor point of cultural difference? Yes.

Whether it is a contrast that carries wider import is an issue we must address. Punchi has begotten this issue. Thank you, good man! The academic world will miss you.

[1] Teravili are riddles in verse – usually in quatrains (viz. sivpada); while hatan kavi are war poems.

[2]  Others included Ananda Wakkumbura, Srinath Ganewatte, KBA Edmind, JB Disanayake, RC Somapaala, Sumanasekera Banda, Darshani Gunatlleke, Asoka de Zoysa, Ananda Tissakumara.

[3] P Dolapihilla; “Sinhalese Music and Minstrelsy,” in Ralph Pieris (ed.) Traditional Sinhalese Culture. A Symposium, Peradeniya, Ceylon University Conference on Traditional Cultures, 1956, pp. 34-46.

[4] Roberts, Sinhala Consciousness, 2004, p. 35.

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Vale: Remembering & Appreciating Professor PB Meegaskumbura

     KNO Dharmadasa, in The Island,  2 October 2020, ….            


Professor P.B.Meegaskumbura, who passed away on the 20th of October after ailing for sometime, is well known among Sri Lankan scholars as an academic who has contributed immensely to expand the vistas of Sinhala Studies. His research and publications include studies of the many branches of Linguistics, the study of Sinhala Classics, Buddhist History, Semantics, Stylistics, and the Society and Culture of the Veddas. Whatever he wrote, whether in Sinhala or English, bore the hall mark of high quality.   


Punchi Banda Meegaskumbura was born in Ravanagoda, Kotmale in 1938.  During his primary education in the village school, he had the good fortune to obtain the first lessons in Pali and Sanskrit from his uncle, the Ven. Ravanagoda Dhammapala Thero. Subsequently he attended the  Handunawe Central School and later, the Walala Central School where he mastered the English language which was the medium of higher education at the time. In 1958, he entered the University of Ceylon at Peradeniya.

Reading for the Special Arts Degree in Sinhala, Meegaskumbura ‘topped the batch’ at the final examination held in 1962. He was soon recruited to the academic staff. Attracted to linguistics studies, then taught by Prof. D. E.Hettiarachchi  and Dr. M. W. Sugatapala de Silva, Meegaskumbura launched his first research work which was about the Noun Phrase in Colloquial Sinhalese. Presenting this study, he won the M.A (research) in 1966. For his doctoral, studies he proceeded to the Deccan College of the University of Pune. He worked on a dissertation entitled “Proto New Indo-Aryan Phonology: A Comparative Re- construction of the Phonology of the Parent Indo-Aryan Language based on Sinalese, Sindhi, Bengali, Oriya, Gujarati, Marati, Punjabi, Bhojpuri and Hindi,” which won him thedoctorate in 1970.

Returning to Peradeniya, Doctor Meegaskumbura was entrusted with the task of teaching the courses in Historical Linguistics earlier taught by Prof. Hetiarachchi, which he did with great skill and dedication.  Also, he was a very active teacher in the ISLE Program conducted at Peradeniya in collaboration with several University Colleges in the US.  He also worked as Visiting Professor in the Beijing Institute of Foreign Languages in China (1985-86) and in SOAS, University of London (1994-5) In 2018, he was a Visiting Scholar at the Asian Research Institute in Jerusalem, Israel. Being an excellent translator, he has translated into Sinhala several scholarly works, most notably, Prof John Holt’s The Buddha in the Crown : Avalokitheshvara in the Buddhist Tradition of Sri Lanka (1994), Prof. David Blundell’s  Masks: Anthropology of the Sinhalese Belief System (1997) and  Prof. Hajime Nakamura’s The Way of Thinking of the Asian Peoples (2003).

Prof. Meegaskumbura has been an ideal  Guru who has given silpa dana (the gift of knowledge) to over forty generations of students in Peradeniya. He has selflessly spent his time, knowledge and energy in the service of others, especially in editing their writings. At times this extended beyond the correcting of language and this is gratefully acknowledged by those who thus benefitted. Professor Meegaskumbura receives our salutation as a teacher who upheld humane values and a savant of high distinction.        

One of his last scholarly undertakings was the editing for a second re-printing of the great 12th century Classic Visuddhimarga Sanna, first edited by Ven. Matara Dhammarama Thero in 1929. Meegaskumbura added a lengthy introductionand the complete work extended to 1226 pages. This work was published a few weeks before his death by the Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy which he diligently served as a member of the Governing Board.

We can truly say of Prof. Meegaskumbura, (slightly changing the aphorism) rupan Jirathi maccanan–kusala dhammam najirathi  (the form will perish with the flesh but meritorious deeds will never perish) 

May he attain the Supreme Bliss of Nibbana

Prof. K.N.O.Dharmadasa


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